For two years we didn’t go to restaurants.
No chimichangas. No pad thai.
We didn’t buy convenience foods. We didn’t buy disposable diapers. (I’m like superwoman, BTW. I can say that because I cloth diapered 2.5 babies and anyone who does that wins the right to be Superwoman. Speaking of that, cheers to every great grandma).
The things we forfeited while on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 2: The Snowball (there’re only two ways out of step two, by the way: success, or death by embarrassment. That’s right; failure’s not an option) included restaurants. Coffee. Disposable diapers. Internet connection. Gas. New clothes. Store bought Christmas gifts. Cable. Car payments. Backpacking gear. Random trips to my dad’s house which is Far Away. Any type of vacation and most weekend trips. Make up. Hair appointments (thanks to Clairol I made it through!). Hotels.
Basically everything you can think of that’s part of the daily lives of the middle class. CELL PHONES. Yep. Switched down to a tracphone..
Ah but what did we acquire? The Red Rocket, for one, the name my husband sweetly bestowed on our $1800, 1999 Maroon Buick Park Avenue, complete with one shiny hubcap and a four-foot crack in the eight-foot windshield. I can still feel the velour seats and smell the faint scent of mildew. #Classy (Actually, turned out to be an awesome car and if I could get it back, I would. But now we think it belongs to a drug dealer. #SoNevermind).
And we acquired some handed down clothes, some gift cards to restaurants from inlaws who worried about us (rightfully so… we crazy)– which we used on multiple Happy Hour evenings at the spot where 2 bucks gets you a burger. But that was our only restaurant. (Unless you count TWO DOLLAR DATE NIGHT!!! Every Friday we’d hop in the Red Rocket and hit up the 7-11 for some corn dogs and a Red Box Movie (since, no Netflix). HASTAG ROMANCE! Sometimes we’d sneak into a high school sporting event just to keep it fresh).
We also acquired some bulk Folger’s coffee and some toilet paper made of, I’m almost sure, air and sawdust.
WAIT! Not TRUE! We also acquired the “Congratulations! You have paid off your student loan.” letters!! Like… 7 of them. Plus the title to our Cadillac, as well as the title to my car (won’t tell you what it is because you’ll wonder what’s wrong with us… ahem …it was an… ahem Kia) both of which we promptly handed to someone else.
So I start making lists like this of all the things we “didn’t do” when we were dumping debt and it’s not long before it morphs into the things we DID do. Because let’s face it, that’s just more positive sounding, and that’s really the catch with all of this. Having an upbeat attitude and looking for the good in all our situations is what makes a really hard challenge become A Super Cool Story To Tell Your Grandkids.
We already had lots of money saved up, so we plummeted a ton of it to the first debt to kick off the Debt Snowball. When the vertigo stopped and we realized we were going to survive, we did it again. And again. Until we only had a couple grand in the bank. (Yikes, scary.)
And we stopped spending money on everything but debt payoff. We stopped eating.
Jk. But we did stop eating everything except beans and rice. And homemade bread. And soup. So. Much. Soup. And oh my goodness, I’ve never been to so many church potlucks in my life #RespectTheCrockpot #JelloSalad
We did walk a lot more. We did do a lot of puzzles. We hiked. We volunteered our butts off. We had game nights with friends. We had fires. We had candlelight dinners. We had Family Pizza Night. Lots of food issues, I’m seeing here lol.
We built a lot of forts. We slept on an air mattress for fun and had family movie night with stove popcorn. We baked a lot of cookies with friends. Lots of cookies. And actually, we sold those cookies and made enough money to send a Haitian girl to school for a year and pay for her school supplies. So that’s an added cool bonus of what can be done when you have a lot of time because you don’t have enough money to do Cool Rich American Stuff like go skiing.
We basically asked my husband’s grand parents how they used to live when they were “just starting out” and then… we copied them.
And before you know it, we were living on very little, which is, after all, a very good way to save money.
So between little things like using vinegar to clean, and cutting out lattes (okay.. that’s a big thing), and bigger things like cutting out the INTERNET (yep really, because the library has the internet. Yeah it was Impossibly inconvenient. But… I’m out of debt now so…I guess you could say it was HASTHAG WORTH IT), and other big things like planting gardens, and taking the bus, and going meatless, and walking everywhere, and using cloth diapers, and buying only used clothing and selling the old stuff, and hanging wet clothes on a clothesline, and not buying plastic crap for our kids but instead, encouraging them to play outside and use their minds and ride their bikes, and making our Christmas gifts… between all that new hippie chic stuff (or The Good Old Human Way, depending on how you look at it) we can really save a pretty penny!
Which we can throw at our debt to get us out faster.
And soon, we hit the middle, the hump, the part of the story where we owed less than half of the original amount. And then, it wasn’t a burden anymore. Then it was a friggin challenge. Like, let’s slay this dragon!! FOR NARNIAAAAAAA!!!!
Then it became about these cool badges and battle scars (the Buick, for one, or the time our friends made fun of us for not going out to eat cheesecake. To this day, literally, when I see a cheesecake, I see our mutual fund statement. No joke. And it’s worth a freaking lot of cheesecakes). It became about all the joy we found in the cool new things we had learned to do.
And we had pride knowing that every single intentional choice was bringing us one step closer to the Debt being Gone Forever. And we still have pride knowing we are really working hard with what we have for a goal that’s going to change our lives and our generations after us… and one day our freedom will impact the lives of these beautiful people around us who really are living in poverty and who really are in need, and who we really could help if we just had the money.
When I learned that there are programs that feed people for a dollar a day, or I could buy a mosquito net and literally keep someone from dying for the price of a couple of lattes, and I realized that as soon as I was debt free, I’d have a heck of a lot more money to invest and give — the sacrifice of a latte didn’t seem so huge anymore. When I stacked it against the ability to help someone whose baby is starving, all of a sudden, living without the internet for a season seemed not that large a sacrifice.
That’s when things got Crazy. 🙂